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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court finding that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s wrongful termination complaint against the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and that Plaintiff failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Specifically, Plaintiff claimed that the Department violated the whistleblower provision of the Indiana False Claims and Whistleblower Protection Act, Ind. Code 5-11-5.5. The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of the complaint, holding (1) the State did not waived sovereign immunity in this case because the whistleblower provision of the Act does not clearly evince the legislature’s intention to subject the State for violations of the Act; but (2) the dismissal should have been without prejudice to Plaintiff filing an amended complaint. View "Esserman v. Indiana Department of Environmental Management" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s judgment concluding that the State’s proposed forfeiture of Defendant’s Land Rover that Defendant used to transport illegal drugs would violate the Eighth Amendment’s Excessive Fines Clause. The State sought to forfeit the Land Rover after Defendant pleaded guilty to one count of Class B felony dealing and one count of Class D felony conspiracy to commit theft. The trial court denied the State’s action, concluding that forfeiture would be an excessive fine under the Eighth Amendment. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the United States Supreme Court has never enforced the Excessive Fines Clause against the states, and this court opts not to do so in this case; and (2) based on the trial court’s findings, the state proved it was entitled to forfeit the Land Rover. View "State v. Timbs" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reaffirmed the holding in Tindall v. Enderle, 320 N.E.2d 764 (Ind. 1974), which established that when an employer admits that an employee was acting within the course and scope of his or her employment, absent special circumstances, the employer may only be held liable under the doctrine of respondent superior, and negligent hiring claims are precluded. Amanda Parker was killed while she was delivering pizzas for 2JR Pizza Enterprises, LLC (Pizza Hut). Hamblin’s Estate filed a wrongful death suit against Pizza Hut, alleging that Hamblin’s death was directly and proximately caused by Pizza Hut’s negligent hiring, training, and/or supervision of Parker and that Pizza Hut was liable for Parker’s negligence under the doctrine of respondent superior. The trial court granted partial summary judgment dismissing the Estate’s negligent hiring claim because it admitted Parker was acting within the course and scope of her employment, thus allowing only the negligence claim under the doctrine of respondent superior to proceed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that respondent superior and negligent hiring claims may not be brought simultaneously when an employer admits that an employee was acting with the course and scope of his or her employment. View "Sedam v. 2JR Pizza Enterprises, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s determination as to the good time credit Defendant earned while in the work-release program of a community corrections facility and remanded the matter to the trial court with instructions to recalculate Defendant’s credit time. Defendant's direct placement in a community corrections facility was revoked for his failure to abide by the program’s terms. Thereafter, Defendant was ordered to serve the remainder of his eleven-year sentence in the Department of Correction. The trial court, in calculating Defendant’s earned good time credit, determined that because the community corrections director had deprived Defendant of more good time credit days than he was entitled to receive, Defendant was not entitled to any good time credit for his time served in the work-release program. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the community corrections director lacked the authority to deprive Defendant of good time credit earned. View "Shepard v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court denying Defendant’s motion to suppress. As grounds for the motion, Defendant argued that the search warrant authorizing the search was unsupported by probable cause under the Fourth Amendment and that its execution violated the search-and-seizure protections of the Fourth Amendment and Ind. Const. art. I, 11. The trial court denied the motion. A jury subsequently found Defendant guilty of of several drug-related offenses. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) under a state constitutional analysis, the police did not act unreasonably under the totality of the circumstances; and (2) under a federal constitutional analysis, the search warrant was supported by probable cause. View "Watkins v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court overruled Salter v. State, 906 N.E.2d 2012 (Ind. Ct. App. 2009), which found Ind. Code 35-49-3-3(a)(1) (the Dissemination Statute) void for vagueness was applied because the intended recipient met Indiana’s age of consent to sexual activity. Defendant in this case was charged with dissemination of matter harmful to minors under the Dissemination Statute for sending a photograph of his erect penis to a sixteen-year-old girl. Defendant moved to dismiss on constitutional grounds, arguing that the statute was void for vagueness. The trial court dismissed the charges, relying on Salter. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded for further proceedings, holding that the Dissemination Statute is not unconstitutionally vague. View "State v. Thakar" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court convicting Defendant of Class A felony dealing in a narcotic drug. The Court of Appeals reversed Defendant’s conviction, concluding that the police violated his Fourth Amendment rights when they detained and transported Defendant to the police station to await a search warrant and that the trial court erred in not excluding evidence obtained during that detention. The Supreme Court granted transfer, thereby vacating the Court of Appeals’ opinion, and affirmed the trial court’s decision to admit the disputed evidence, holding (1) police officers had probable cause to believe Defendant was in possession of narcotics; and (2) therefore, transporting Defendant to, and detaining him at, the police station to await the results of a search warrant request did not violate the Fourth Amendment. View "Thomas v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the trial court requiring Defendant to pay $5,240.32 in restitution. Defendant pled guilty to level 6 felony auto theft, and the victim’s vehicle came back heavily spray-painted. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that insufficient evidence supported the restitution order because the record did not show that the spray-paint damage was attributable to the theft. The Supreme Court granted transfer, thus vacating the court of appeals opinion, and affirmed, holding (1) Defendant did not waive her right to appeal the amount of the restitution order; (2) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in ordering Defendant to pay restitution for the spray-paint damage because there was sufficient evidence that the spray-paint damage was a direct result of the underlying theft; and (3) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in determining that Defendant had the ability to pay restitution. View "Archer v. State" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Under Indiana Code section 31-25-2-5, no family case manager at the Indiana Department of Child Services can oversee more than 17 children at a time who are receiving services. The statute does not require the Department to perform any specific, ministerial acts for achieving that number. Price, a family case manager, filed a proposed class action. She alleged that her caseload was 43 children and sought an “order mandating or enjoining [D]efendants to take all necessary steps to comply with [Section 5].” The Indiana Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of Price’s claim prior to class certification. Judicial mandate is an extraordinary remedy—available only when the law imposes a clear duty upon a defendant to perform a specific, ministerial act and the plaintiff is clearly entitled to that relief. The statute at issue does not impose a specific, ministerial duty. View "Price v. Indiana Department of Child Services; Director of Indiana Department of Child Services" on Justia Law

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When an individual reported child abuse, the Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS) told the reporter that his report was confidential. The Department however, released the report without redacting the identity of the reporter. The reporter and his family sued DCS for negligently disclosing the reporter’s identity, claiming that the statute requiring DCS to protect reporter identity - Ind. Code 31-33-18-2 (section 2) - implies a private right of action and that DCS created a common-law duty of confidentiality. The trial court granted summary judgment for DCS. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that DCS owed Plaintiffs a common-law “private duty” based on a hotline worker’s “promise” of confidentiality. The Supreme Court granted transfer, thereby vacating the Court of Appeals decision, and held (1) section 2 provides no private right of action; and (2) there is no common law basis to impose a duty on DCS. View "John Doe #1 v. Indiana Department of Child Services" on Justia Law